You might have heard of it from your trouble neighbor or from a friend who suffers from constant anxiety. They may have mentioned that they’re doing online counseling to help them deal with their everyday stresses. And you probably have some idea about it, but what really is E-counseling? How does it work? What is it and what is it not?
Simply put, e-counseling is a method of providing mental health services through the web. Online therapy, online teletherapy and cyber counseling are some of its other names. It is a fast-rising tool wherein an individual seeking professional help communicates with a counselor or therapist via email, chat or video conferencing to replace the traditional face to face therapy. Some people may also prefer to combine the two modalities.
Although online counseling has been introduced not very long ago, its history goes back from the time of Sigmund Freud. Freud utilized distance communication by the way of letters, to interact with clients. What started as self-help organizations in the 1980s has grown tremendously into becoming cyber therapy clinics and finally the birth of the International Society for Mental Health Online.
It is important to note that e-counselling is not psychotherapy, as its scope does not include the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health illness. If you think you need a clear and formal diagnosis of certain symptoms, it necessitates you to do a face to face psychotherapy session. Online therapy can be associated more with life coaching, where the therapist aims to help an individual improve his relationships, develop better skills, and manage his life wisely.
The effectiveness of online therapy has been proven by several positive and successful outcomes which are more or less the same to the traditional face to face therapy. People tend to incur fewer absences in their online sessions compared to their office visits. Some studies suggest that its efficacy can be associated with the ease and comfort of clients doing their sessions at home, as it does not intimidate them and encourages them to be honest about how they feel. In turn, this leads to the therapist being able to provide them with more efficient solutions.
Accessibility is also one of the undeniable reasons for the success of e-counseling. It has provided the need for clients who were otherwise unable to access a therapist from their location. The availability of virtual therapists has enabled expats and rural residents to find better solutions to their social, emotional and personal problems, not to mention being able to attend the sessions on time.
Although e-counseling holds a promising spot in our modern world, there are some considerations before deciding to log on and click that ‘hire’ button.
- Make sure that the therapist is licensed. If you’re somewhere in Chicago and your therapist is from California, then, strictly speaking, he or she is practicing without a license. Always make sure that you hire a therapist who is licensed in the state where you live in so that you are able to take legal action in case something isn’t right. Also, it would be wise to check on your therapist’s credentials and background.
- The dangers of hacking. While there are several ways to ensure security, we can never rule out the possibility of being hacked. You and your therapist must both make the necessary precautions of encrypting your chat and video sessions. You should also regularly establish excellent connectivity before starting every session.
- Privacy. Assurance from the therapist’s end should be confirmed. He must ensure that only he has access to his work computer, his chat, email and video records and that no one is with him while you are doing counseling with him. You too should do your part. It is possible that family members or colleagues from work are able to get a glimpse of what you’ve been doing. Experts suggest using a generic computer, not your work computer.
- Confidentiality. Therapists are only allowed to divulge information on their clients in cases where he is ordered by the court or if his client becomes a threat to himself or to others around him. It is also his duty to report any concern of domestic, child or elderly abuse.
- No physical comfort. When a client becomes emotional and cries, the virtual therapist can only do so much. He is unable to take the role of a ‘shoulder to lean on.’ While comforting words of advice can mean a lot to someone, it could also lessen the chances of establishing a bond between therapist and client, possibly decreasing the opportunity of a successful counseling process.
While many doubt the effectiveness of online therapy, it has otherwise been receiving overwhelming support from individuals who have experienced and reaped the benefits of this modality. It may not work for everyone, but it has definitely proven its worth in most situations where people seek help in resolving personal and relationship concerns.